Sunday, October 05, 2008

Travancore connection to the Prince of Wales

King Edward VII

Which is the place that a British monarch or the Prince of Wales had come closer to the shores of Travancore?

It is interesting to learn that Queen Victoria, despite her long reign from 1837 to 1901 and having celebrated the golden and diamond jubilees -50th and 60th anniversaries of accession- did not visit India, the jewel in the crown of the British Empire. Her son, The Prince of Wales, afterwards King Edward VII, paid a visit to India during 1875-76 as a mark of honor to the native princes who had aided the English in their efforts to govern the land. This visit was followed by Queen Victoria's assumption of the title of the Empress of India.

Though he had visited Madras and some adjoining areas during his visit, he could not visit Travancore probably because there was widespread cholera in the country during that time. Otherwise, an Anamalai excursion in Travancore had been thought of as a hunting expedition for the prince.

Incidentally, Edward’s son George V was the only King-Emperor who visited India which took place in 1911. He too had not come down south to visit Travancore. None of his successors too had paid a visit to this part of the empire, even though it was well known that Travancore was one of the best governed states of the empire over the years.
The following information on the visit of the Prince of Wales in 1875 to India could be of some interest to the readers.

The Prince of Wales, Albert Edward, with a big retinue of officers and men sailing from London on the 11th of October, 1875 arrived in Bombay by the royal ship, HMS Serapis on the 8th of November.
The 6,200 ton 'Serapis' was launched in 1866 and she served as an Indian troopship and was the sister ship of HMS 'Malabar'.
HMS Serapis, the royal ship

After some elaborate reception from the Viceroy at Bombay, the Prince travelled to Poona and Baroda and had conducted some royal safaris, pig sticking and other visits.

Sir Madhava Row, Dewan of Baroda who was a former Dewan of Travancore (1859-72) was there at Baroda with the Gaekwar of Baroda to receive the Prince and later to see him off to Bombay. Returning to Bombay, it was decided that after visiting Goa, the Serapis shall call at Beypore and will go on to Colombo in Ceylon.

Accordingly, on the 26th of November, the Prince sailed on the western coast and reached Beypore on the 29th before sailing to Ceylon.

Beypore is one of the oldest ports in Kerala situated in the district of Calicut. It has been a ship-building centre and was in the Madras Presidency under the British rule.
Beypore backwaters Today

Following is the actual report in the Times daily, London of 30th November 1875.

The Prince of Wales

(From Our Special Correspondent.) BEYPORE, Nov. 29, 2 pm. The Prince arrived here at 10 am. All well. After a consultation with the local authorities who came on board the Serapis, it was decided to go on to Colombo at 5 tonight, so as to arrive there on Wednesday. The cholera is all over the country, not raging very severely, but sufficiently widespread to induce caution. The Prince of Wales was obliged to decline the Rajah's invitation to visit Travancore. Great disappointment is felt at the abandonment of the Annamullay excursion. The visit to Madras will depend on the news received at Colombo. The Prince entertained the Madras officials at lunch on board the Serapis. There is immense disappointment expressed on all sides at the abandonment of the Prince's visit. For nine years there has been no cholera reported in this district. The preparations were extensive and most costly all over the Presidency, and the ladies especially are disconsolate. After lunch the Prince went up the river in a launch. The scenery was very pretty, but he was advised not to land. Many boats were about the river, and the quaint costumes of the people presented a curious spectacle. The Serapis will not touch at Trevandrurm.
Commemorative gold medal presented to the Rajahs, rulers etc during
the visit of the Prince of Wales to India during 1875-76

Life on the board of HMS Serapis 1. Tennis 2. Entertainments

It is interesting to note that the Prince seemed to have gone up in the Beypore river though he did not land on the shores of Kerala. Also, it was disappointing to the Maharajah, Ayilyam Tirunal Bala Rama Varma that the Prince could not accept his invitation to visit Travancore. Later, the maharajah (He was the first ruler of Travancore to be conferred with the title Maharajah in 1866, by the British government in recognition of his excellent administration of the state) went to Madras to pay respects to the Prince who reached there after the voyage to Colombo.

Ayilyam Tirunal, Maharajah of Travancore (r.1860-80)

On returning from Colombo on the 9th of December, the Prince arrived at Tuticorin on the 10th and then proceeded by train to Kovilpatty, Madurai, Dindigul and Trichinopoly on the way to Madras.

On the 13th December, the train with the royal entourage stopped at Royapuram, outside Madras, and was welcomed on the platform by the Duke of Buckingham, dignitaries of the Presidency, the Rajas of Cochin, Travancore, Arcot, Vizianagram, and others.

From Madras, he went to Calcutta, Benares, Lucknow and the imperial Delhi. Then the visit extended to Lahore, Jammoo, Agra, Jeypore, Allahabad and Indore before the prince returned to Bombay.
The Royal visit to India -Prince of Wales enters Agra-

Finally on the 13th of March, after a much hectic tour, the Prince bid farewell to India in the royal ship Serapis.

Palakkad,South India, 5th October 2008.


Abraham Tharakan said...

Another interesting post.
You can read about the visit of another Prince of Wales in 1922 at

Murali RamaVarma said...

Thank you indeed! The visit of the Prince of Wales(later Edward VIII, who abdicated the crown) in 1921-22was also interesting. Lord Mountbatten of Burma, the last viceroy of India was his aide de camp during this visit. Incidentally, his father Prince Louis of Battenberg,had joined HMS Serapis, at the invitation of the then Prince of Wales on his official tour of India in 1875-76.

Maddy said...

Funnily i had chanced upon that very beypore visit some days ago. When trivandrum was suggested the first response was 'but there are no animals to shoot there'. (Howard Russell's notes). the POW was upset becos the idea was originally to go hunting in the anamalai forests. eventually the POW shot birds and otters in beypore. Now i find that impossible to believe - otters in beypore? there is a painting showing that event hanging in some european hall. and another trivia - During that event logan attended!!

Murali RamaVarma said...

Interesting to note the convergence of thoughts and ideas!Did Howard Russel accompany the POW?

Otters in Beypore! Hahaha!It may be our squirrels. But then, not even an Abhinav Bindra , leave alone the POW, can give it a shot because of its quick movements!

Maddy said...

yes, he did as POW's Personal secretary. Then he wrote the book - the POW tour, which is available for download from googlebooks.,M1

that was a good connection between bhindra & the pow - had a good laugh over it!!

C.K.Ramachandran said...

Fascinating stuff! Otters in Calicut need not be fiction. I have seen otters myself as a child (1950s)migrating from Kallai River into the Connolly Canal during monsoon floods.People often mistake otters for Dolphin - there is a Dolphins Point between Beypore and Calicut beach where people used to watch dolphins frolicking in the sea.

Murali RamaVarma said...

Thank you, Ramachandran , for this most interesting information.You having been an eyewitness to seeing otters, I have no hesitation in standing corrected. Maddy too will find the information new. I wonder, how much our environment has changed over a century!

St John said...

I have reports of one ‘small’ event which occurred during the POW’s visit to South India in 1875. In a certain way it highlights the local importance of such occasions, and one can understand Travancore’s disappointment at not being able to receive him during his tour.
As you say, the POW landed at Tuticorin on 10th Dec and travelled by rail to Madras. He was opening the new line, and one of the places he stopped at was Miniachi in Tinnevelly district for a meeting with the Christian missionaries of the SPG and CMS. The meeting was attended by “9 English clergymen, nearly 1000 school children, 53 Indian pastors, 6-7000 representatives of the local Christian congregations”, some of whom had travelled 40-60 miles to get there and had never before seen a train. The loyal address given on this occasion runs to three pages!

Also, a comment made in your blog “… it was well known that Travancore was one of the best governed states of the empire over the years”, reminded me of a verse from a book of satirical poetry – “The Chutney Lyrics” by Robert Charles Caldwell (1871 & 1889 editions) – in which the following appears:


The Protected State of Coconutcore!
Where dwells a worthy and well-oiled nation,
Blest with a faultless administration;
The brightest land, with the lightest tax,
And an annual surplus of fifty lacs;
Where happy ryots ne'er pestered by famines,
Till fields, in subjection to blessed Brahmins.
A land of peace, a land of delight,
Where everyone, everywhere, always does right.
Where white men, living in meek minority,
Acknowledge Brahminical superiority.
In short, and I'm sure I cannot say more,
'Tis a heaven upon earth, this Coconutcore.

* Alias - Raja Sir T. Madhava Rao, the Dewan of Travancore.

RC Caldwell, the son of an SPG missionary, had been training for the priesthood for six years when his Lyrics were first published in Madras. Whereupon the bishop of Madras promptly rejected him for ordination – presumably for lack of devout decorum.

Murali RamaVarma said...

Dear St.John, I profusely thank you for providing these wonderful information.

I am sure that the POW might have thoroughly felt deeply about the Tuticorin meeting described by you.Do you have the copy of the royal address given?

I must also thank you for quoting this brilliant satirical poem by RC Caldwell about whom I have read. I had not known about this verse which I consider as a salutation to the "Coconutcore" by the poet. "Sir Gammon(Madhava) Row", as you know was one of the most distinguished administrators
that British India produced.

With hearty X'mas greetings!

St John said...

Dear Murali, I’m afraid we have passed on our printed copy of the address made at Miniachi by Rev Dr Robert Caldwell of the SPG, and the POW’s short reply. I remember that the address categorises in detail the remarkable joint progress made throughout Tinnevelly by the SPG and by the CMS under Rev Dr Edward Sargent, Caldwell’s colleague and close friend. Both of them became bishops in 1877. If you want a copy of the address I may be able to retrieve one for you. Alternatively, the original material, and a manuscript letter by Dr Sargent (dated 11th Dec 1875) describing the occasion, are at:
Special Collections (CMS), Main Library, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham B15 2TT, UK [Tel:0121-414-5838/9; E-mail: or ].

Murali RamaVarma said...

Thank you St.John for a quick response. I shall try to procure the details from the email address given.

Greetings for the new year!

St John said...

My mistake. Memory lapse. I find I did keep a copy of Caldwell's address after all.

To make it large enough for you to read, I have now scanned it into 5 separate sections which I will send you. But perhaps I should send them as attachments to another e-mail address so I don't clutter up your blog site?

A very happy new year to you and yours.

Murali RamaVarma said...

Thanks,St.John. You may please use the email to send the scans. Kind regards,